Set in the heart of central Christchurch’s retail precinct, this new five-storey commercial building features ground floor retail and four levels of premium office space. The building replaces the Stewart Dawson’s Building (1911) and the Southland Building Society building (1890): both demolished following the major earthquake on the 22nd of February 2011.
222 High Street, Christchurch
Sydney-based practice Esquisse created the concept design with Peddlethorp developing the design from there; working closely alongside Beca (Services), Lewis Bradford (Structural), Powell Fenwick (Mechanical) and Leighs Construction. The building was documented and delivered in 14 months.
This infill project completes the northern edge of a ‘frame’ articulating the commencement of pedestrianised zones of the retail precinct. The introduction of a curved façade, in response to the obtuse angled site, provides a seamless transition between Cashel and High Streets.
The building addresses the disparity between the predominantly two to three level buildings on High Street and the seven-level Grand Central Building on Cashel Street by articulating the southern facade with vertical aluminium fins; providing a visual break to the neighbouring building. This feature also provides an honest representation of the buildings core, facilitating vertical circulation.
Material selections were deliberately limited to a palette of glass and aluminium with elements arranged to respond appropriately to the urban context. The office levels are glazed and cloaked in aluminium fins rising up to form a parapet to the upper terrace. The facade reflects aspects of a working kākahu; a garment that would have been worn to shield the wearer from the weather. The kākahu is a symbol of the relationship between the natural resources of the area and their role in trade and travel while also representing craftsmanship, knowledge of natural resources and creativity.
Glazed volumes ‘pop out’ over a historic right of way from Cashel Street, turning their back on Grand Central, the boxes provide north to south sight lines through the building bringing light into the office floors. The expansive terrace is accessible from the level 4 offices and wraps around the southern façade with panoramic views overlooking the city to the Port Hills. At street level transparency has been provided into the retail spaces for a high level of activation. The ceramic frit pattern on the glass canopy was developed to represent in an abstract way the layers of tī kouka (cabbage tree) or harakeke (flax) fibre would shed water and protect the wearer, reinforcing the kākahu concept.